Parents, school administrators, social workers and students had an opportunity to learn from and interact with speaker, Jill Brown at the JCC, Virginia Beach, VA.
Are you afraid of the influence of Facebook and other forms of social media on your child? Are you a grandparent who sees your grandchild rarely reading books and more often on the computer or texting?
The reality is that most children begin using various forms of social media to communicate with their friends as early as elementary school. Facebook is not legal for those under 13, but there is no way of knowing the age of its youngest users. Preteens are too often either the victims of “cyber bullying” or are themselves guilty of spreading unnecessary gossip through forms of social media.
On Sunday, June 10th, parents, teenagers, college students, camp directors, camp counselors, elementary school principals, and a detective from the cyber crimes unit at the Virginai Beach Police Department, had an open and frank discussion about cyber bullying with Jill Brown, founder and CEO of ItsMyLocker.com, an online network where tweens can socialize safely. The program was presented by the Simon Family JCC’s Kids Connection Before and After School Program.
Brown, who is highly-regarded and well-known in the circle of Internet safety experts, is also the founder and CEO of Generation Text Online, a company that offers many different programs to help protect students from bullying.
Discussions included conversations to help schools deal with bullying via social media, cell phones and YouTube. The key to her message was not to tell kids to stop using the Internet and social media. Rather, assuming they will actively engage in it, and instructing them to do so safely, thinking about the consequences of posting the wrong comment or picture.
“I’d like to reach out to every child all over the country and show them what’s appropriate and inappropriate, but ultimately I want to educate parents as to what they can do to keep their kids safe,” she says.
Brown developed ItsMy Locker.com as a stepping stone to Facebook for middle schoolers. “It was created to give kids a chance to go online safely and actually do good work through their athletic group, religious group or other affiliation,” she says.
Facebook, which many children engage in at a young age, gives them no guidance as to how to behave. Children go on this site, set up a page, and sometimes reveal too much about themselves. “They make themselves vulnerable to potential bullying by being exposed to things that are not age appropriate,” says Brown.
Parents need to be involved in the early years, gradually building trust in their children to behave in an age-appropriate way. “We need to tell young children that if they are going online, we have a rule of checking up on them,” Brown says, advising parents to make sure their child is divulging only limited or appropriate information online.
“The idea of wearing a helmet or seat belt is to be safe while doing that activity. By using ItsMyLocker or monitoring their text messages and Facebook, parents will have the opportunity to be privy to the information, therefore enabling them to help their kids if they need help.”
As they get older, children will have developed the skills with which to maturely make their own online, texting and other social media decisions.
Brown’s experience as an active member of the New Jersey community has played a key role in the shaping of her ideas and her business plan. Over the past 13 years, she has successfully balanced a career of consulting, leadership, management and motherhood. She has been featured on NBC’s Today Show, for being a “Supermom” in 2005. Jill is a leader in the youth community and has served on the boards of: Presbyterian Church of Westfield, NJ Mission Commission, Family Life Department of Westfield Area YMCA, Citizens Advisory Committee for Enrollment for the Westfield Board of Education and various roles in her local PTO. These experiences have given Brown a keen sense of how children interact, their social behaviors, and the need for a parental controlled, on-line activity.
You can view the story which was reported on by Channel 13: